Homeland security has become a decidedly second-rate priority today in a world where the U.S. has chosen to combat terrorism as essentially a military and intelligence activity, says Council of Foreign Relations fellow Stephen Flynn in a book excerpt published in U.S. News & World Report. The Defense Department is spending 10 times more protecting its own military bases, naval ships, and barrack than the federal government is spending on our major cities. Any objective analysis would conclude that terrorists would be more interested in targeting crucial civilian structures on U.S. soil than taking on the U.S. military, says Flynn.
Misplaced priorities have allowed infrastructure like levees and power plants to crumble, putting our country more at risk for catastrophic, Hurricane Katrina-like failures. Nearly half of the country’s 257 river locks are functionally obsolete, and the power system is in urgent need of modernization. Defending targets that would be most appealing to terrorists and investing adequate resources in safeguarding them are worth doing, Flynn argues. Unbelievably, he says, the Department of Homeland Security did not even have a good working list of the most critical structures until late 2006-and most items on that list are a long way from being protected.